Oliver Ullrich

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Oliver Ullrich
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Born (1970-07-09) July 9, 1970 (age 50)
  • Medicine
  • Biochemistry
Alma materFree University of Berlin
  • Space Physician
  • Gravitational Biologist

Oliver Ullrich is a German space physician and gravitational biologist. He is the director of the UZH Space Hub. Picture by Regina Sablotny, Berlin. Oliver Ullrich (9 July 1970 in Berlin) is a German space physician and gravitational biologist.


He studied medicine and biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin from 1989 to 1996 and received a doctorate in medicine 1998 from the Humboldt University of Berlin. In the same year he received a second doctorate in biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin. In 2002 he qualified as a university lecturer at the Charité in anatomy and cell biology. In December 2003, he accepted a professorship for Molecular Immunology and later for Space Biotechnology at the University Hospital in Magdeburg. In cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, he started a research program in space biology that attracts international attention.

In addition, Ullrich established a close cooperation between neurosciences and immunology, participated in a state research association and founded a DFG graduate college. Since 2007 he has been honorary professor for space biotechnology at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Magdeburg. In 2019 he took over an honorary professorship for space medicine at the Ernst Abbe University of Jena, where he introduces students to interdisciplinary product development in the context of space missions..[1] He is also Adjunct Professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) in China. In September 2007 Oliver Ullrich took up his current position as full professor of anatomy at the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.[2]


Oliver Ullrich led international space medicine and gravitational biology research projects, including CELLBOX-PRIME[3], TRIPLE LUX A [3], FLUMIAS-DEA[3] and Gene Control Prime[3]. His research focuses on gravitational biology, in particular on the molecular and cellular adaptation to different gravity conditions of human cells and on how body cells perceive gravity and how they react to changes in gravity[4] [2]. He is particularly interested in immune cells and cells of the musculoskeletal system. He is investigating their gravity behavior on different platforms: parabolic flights, suborbital rockets and on the International Space Station ISS. He also conducted an orbital experiment in the German Chinese space project SIMBOX on Shenzhou-8[5]. Ullrich's applied research aims, among other things, at the production of tissues and organs in weightlessness[6].

A research result that he published in 2017 together with Cora Thiel after experiments on the ISS attracted worldwide attention: According to this research, immune cells of mammals adapt completely to weightlessness in less than one minute [9][10][11]. He and his team also found rapid adaptation processes in other cell types[7] [8] [9]. He is currently researching how this adaptation occurs.[10] In these research areas he is working together with the US space agency NASA , linked by a Space Act Agreement[11] . His research results contribute to the risk assessment of manned space flights.

In 2012, Oliver Ullrich was elected a lifetime member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is President of the Swiss SkyLab Foundation and Director of Swiss Parabolic Flights. In 2015 he founded the Magdeburg Association for Research under Space and Weightlessness Conditions (MARS) at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg[12]. In 2016 he was elected to the board of the German Society for Aerospace Medicine (DGLRM) and in 2019 became its vice president[13]. He is a member of the program committee of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). He is also a member of various other international spaceflight committees[14]. Oliver Ullrich is also director of the UZH Space Hub – an innovation platform of the University of Zurich. In 2018, he was voted one of the 200 most prominent personalities in the city of Zurich[15]. In 2020 he organized the first Parabolic Flight Campaign worldwide under Coronavirus disease 2019f pandemic conditions[16]

Oliver Ullrich is co-editor of various scientific journals, including Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group)[17] and Acta Astronautica[18], the official scientific journal of the International Academy of Astronautics.


Between 2000 and 2003 Oliver Ullrich won the Karl Asmund Rudolphi Prize three times for the best teaching at the Charité Berlin. In 2002 he was awarded the Wolfgang Bargmann Prize of the Anatomical Society, in 2004 the State Research Prize of Saxony-Anhalt and in 2006 the Otto von Guericke Prize. He is the holder of the bronze and silver medal for parabolic flight. In November 2009 he was allowed to sign the Golden Book of the City of Magdeburg.[19] In 2017, he was elected university lecturer of the year at the Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich.[2] In 2018, the German Academy for Aviation and Travel Medicine (DAF) awarded Ullrich, together with Cora Thiel, the Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger Science Prize for their research on “Rapid adaptation of microgravity in mammalian macrophage cells.[20]

Additional information

Together with the air force officer and physician Marc Studer, he initiated and led the development of a weightlessness research platform on a Swiss Air Force fighter aircraft[21] [22][23]. Together with Natalie Dove, he set up the Swiss Parabolic Flight Program, which, by combining teams of scientists with industry and private individuals, enables research flights with the A310 ZERO-G from Dübendorf Air Base without the use of taxpayers’ money[24]. Together with Cora Thiel, Ullrich succeeded in 2011 in proving experimentally that the genetic substance DNA can survive the space environment and reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere and is still functional afterwards[25]. The publication of this study in 2014 attracted international attention[21][26] Oliver Ullrich is listed in the German Wikilist of "Sons and Daughters of Berlin" and is considered the first West German student in the GDR after the fall of the Wall

Selected publications

  • Rapid coupling between gravitational forces and the transcriptome in human myelomonocytic U937 cells, 2017[27]
  • Stability of gene expression in human T cells in different gravity environments is clustered in chromosomal region 11p15.4, 2017[28]
  • Rapid adaptation to microgravity in mammalian macrophage cells, 2017[29]
  • Functional Activity of Plasmid DNA after Entry into the Atmosphere of Earth Investigated by a New Biomarker Stability Assay for Ballistic Spaceflight Experiments, 2014[25]
  • Metabolische Wirkung des Lipidperoxidationsproduktes 4-Hydroxynonenal auf die Poly-ADP-Ribosylierung in primären Synovialfibroblasten, 1998
  • Funktion und Regulation des nukleären 20S Proteasoms beim Abbau oxidativ geschädigter Histone in humanen K562-Zellen, 1998
  • Mechanismen protektiver und destruktiver Funktionen der Poly(ADP-Ribose)-Polymerase-1 (PARP-1) bei Zell- und Gewebeschädigungen 2002


  1. "Nutzung der Schwerelosigkeit als Werkzeug für Forschung, Entwicklung und Produktion". idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft e.V. (in Deutsch). 2019-10-23. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Oliver Ullrich". www.anatomy.uzh.ch. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Experiment Details". www.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  4. Pongratz, Andreas. "Prof. Dr.med. Dr.rer.nat. Oliver Ullrich". www.dglrm.de (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  5. "DLR - Raumfahrtmanagement - SIMBOX - Eine deutsch-chinesische Raumfahrtkooperation". www.dlr.de. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  6. "Space Station Research Explorer on NASA.gov". www.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  7. Thiel, Cora S.; de Zélicourt, Diane; Tauber, Svantje; Adrian, Astrid; Franz, Markus; Simmet, Dana M.; Schoppmann, Kathrin; Hauschild, Swantje; Krammer, Sonja; Christen, Miriam; Bradacs, Gesine (2017-02-27). "Rapid adaptation to microgravity in mammalian macrophage cells". Scientific Reports. 7 (1): 43. Bibcode:2017NatSR...7...43T. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-00119-6. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5427920. PMID 28242876.
  8. "42 is the answer". www.esa.int. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  9. "Säugetierzellen stellen sich verblüffend schnell auf Schwerelosigkeit ein - derStandard.at". DER STANDARD (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  10. Ullrich, Oliver; Thiel, Cora S. (October 2019). "Schnelle zelluläre Reaktion und Anpassung an Schwerelosigkeit". Flugmedizin · Tropenmedizin · Reisemedizin - FTR (in Deutsch). 26 (5): 202–205. doi:10.1055/a-0990-3284. ISSN 1864-4538.
  11. Kennedy, NASA (2018-12-18), KSC-20181218-PH_CSH01_0008, retrieved 2021-02-07
  12. GmbH, Stephan Jaensch, Jan Vesper, Marian Gaebler, Kristopher Jelinek, Philip Richter (Layout, HTML, CSS)-intosite. "Otto-von-Guericke-Universität wird Standort für Weltraumforschung". www.urbanite.net (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  13. "2020-2022". DGLRM - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin e.V. (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  14. "OVGU - Auftakt des Festjahres "20 Jahre OVGU"". www.ovgu.de. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  15. www.ww-magazin.ch. "Die 200 prominentesten Persönlichkeiten in Zürich und in Basel". Die 200 prominentesten Persönlichkeiten in Zürich und in Basel (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  16. Ullrich, Oliver (October 2020). "Weltweit erste Parabelflugkampagne unter den Bedingungen der SARS-CoV-2-Pandemie". Flugmedizin · Tropenmedizin · Reisemedizin - FTR (in Deutsch). 27 (5): 247–252. doi:10.1055/a-1248-5679. ISSN 1864-4538.
  17. "Editors | Scientific Reports". www.nature.com. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  18. "Acta Astronautica" – via www.journals.elsevier.com.
  19. "Goldenes Buch". www.magdeburg.de. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  20. "Auszeichnung mit dem Albrecht-Ludwig-Berblinger-Preis 2018". www.med.uzh.ch (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Studer, Marc; Bradacs, Gesine; Hilliger, Andre; Hürlimann, Eva; Engeli, Stephanie; Thiel, Cora S.; Zeitner, Peter; Denier, Beat; Binggeli, Markus; Syburra, Thomas; Egli, Marcel (2011-06-01). "Parabolic maneuvers of the Swiss Air Force fighter jet F-5E as a research platform for cell culture experiments in microgravity". Acta Astronautica. 68 (11): 1729–1741. Bibcode:2011AcAau..68.1729S. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2010.11.005. ISSN 0094-5765.
  22. Feusi, Alois. "Mit dem Kampfjet zur Dissertation | NZZ". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  23. "Nase vorn in der Weltraumforschung". 20 Minuten (in Deutsch). 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  24. Schweiz aktuell - Die Schweiz im Weltall - Play SRF (in Deutsch), retrieved 2021-02-07
  25. 25.0 25.1 Thiel, Cora S.; Tauber, Svantje; Schütte, Andreas; Schmitz, Burkhard; Nuesse, Harald; Moeller, Ralf; Ullrich, Oliver (2014-11-26). "Functional Activity of Plasmid DNA after Entry into the Atmosphere of Earth Investigated by a New Biomarker Stability Assay for Ballistic Spaceflight Experiments". PLOS ONE. 9 (11): e112979. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...9k2979T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112979. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4245111. PMID 25426925.
  26. Lindinger, Manfred. "Robuste Erbsubstanz: Einmal Weltall und zurück". FAZ.NET (in Deutsch). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  27. Thiel, Cora S.; Tauber, Svantje; Christoffel, Swantje; Huge, Andreas; Lauber, Beatrice A.; Polzer, Jennifer; Paulsen, Katrin; Lier, Hartwin; Engelmann, Frank; Schmitz, Burkhard; Schütte, Andreas (2018-09-05). "Rapid coupling between gravitational forces and the transcriptome in human myelomonocytic U937 cells". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 13267. Bibcode:2018NatSR...813267T. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-31596-y. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 6125427. PMID 30185876.
  28. Thiel, Cora S.; Huge, Andreas; Hauschild, Swantje; Tauber, Svantje; Lauber, Beatrice A.; Polzer, Jennifer; Paulsen, Katrin; Lier, Hartwin; Engelmann, Frank; Schmitz, Burkhard; Schütte, Andreas (2017-08-31). "Stability of gene expression in human T cells in different gravity environments is clustered in chromosomal region 11p15.4". NPJ Microgravity. 3 (1): 22. doi:10.1038/s41526-017-0028-6. ISSN 2373-8065. PMC 5579209. PMID 28868355.
  29. Rapid adaptation to microgravity in mammalian macrophage cells (PDF). Nature Publishing Group. 2017. OCLC 980366864.

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